A short trip to Amsterdam

We stop in the Rembrandt Square and check the GPS for directions to the Red District. This annoying giggle makes my head turn and I see this couple accompanied by some friends. They’re in their early thirties. Chubby, dark hair, loose jeans and a black leather jacket, he’s proposing, holding the open box to reveal the ring between him and her, somewhere in front of her heart and feeling so nervous and shy and hoping to disappear before getting any attention from the passers by.

No one stops and no one stares. No one seems to be noticing, actually. Except me. And I try to be discreet. She seems high and surprised and unable to escape the “Is this for real?” vs “Oh, my God!” lines she keeps bouncing between, all the time tucking her straight blond hair behind her ears as if trying to grab hold of something she’s considered real for long enough to give her some comfort. Finally, they hug. She’s now wearing the ring, waving her hand in front of her friends, in front of her own eyes, in front of his face, in front of the whole world spinning at light speed around them.

I eventually turn my back to them, giving them some privacy and feeling a little bit ashamed by my intrusive presence. We head for the Red District. Hand in hand. Our friends are having dinner somewhere.

“No pot, no alcohol… Why have you come to Amsterdam?” one of them inquires on the lawn by the Van Gogh museum while passing the joint to another one in the group.

“I’m in a religious sect, I told you. I don’t eat meat, either…” I answer sarcastically. Keeping a secret feels delicious. Yet, I do feel like an alien.

I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m Dana in Amsterdam in the spring of 2017.

I’ve loved Van Gogh for as long as I can remember. And now, in the Van Gogh museum, I feel this distance between myself and everything that he used to represent for me. I am out of the valley of the shadow and doubt, out of the weeping song, out of the dark era. I am grateful for everything that was and everything I have learnt from the hard journey through all that.

The overcrowded city is so relaxed and so mentally blurred no one seems to know exactly what’s happening to them. They all seem to be wondering around like headless chicken. I used to be like that. Ten years ago or so this place would have seemed like heaven. Now… well, now I’m just enjoying the boat ride along the beautiful canals and a tasty dinner in an Italian restaurant. The Red District is too noisy and too sad. The girls are so beautiful and so wrought they awaken motherly instincts (?!) in me and a kind of exaggerated compassion on the fringes of love.

Our hotel, with its almost vertical staircase, is convenient enough. The big windows overlooking the main street make me suggest organizing a peep show for the passers by and the neighbors across. We push the two small beds together as soon as we arrive and pull the curtains in a rush.

“Have you got any non-alcoholic beer?” I almost whisper and blush as the waiter stares at me in disbelief. “Ok, don’t worry, just get me some water.” I add, giving up.

“Do you wanna go? I want to get more drinks? Can we stay longer?” my friend asks.

“Are you kidding? I’ve still got so much water in my glass. And if you dare me, I bet I can have one more!” I answer and we both laugh.

It’s her birthday. Last year we celebrated it in Istanbul. A life-changing experience. This year it’s Amsterdam. This is why I am here now. For her. Not for the pot or the drinks or the hooker spotting. Not even for the experience. And it’s all over so soon as we each head back to her own life and resume where we left off.

Getting ready to leave Harmony Street

“Look how beautiful this is! A clear road ahead, we’re walking, the sun in shining, the air is fresh… No one pushing, nothing like the crowded morning underground ride…” I hesitantly say as we’re walking to the city center this morning.

Four more weeks before I move house. It’s hard. I live in my favorite area in Bucharest, where I’ve wanted to live ever since I first discovered these quiet narrow streets, lined with old houses, some run down, others still retaining some of their former glory in sumptuous ornaments and elegant architecture. Most of them date back to the period between the two world wars or even earlier, before the first world war. They belong to times when rich people were stiff, elegant, conservative and stylish, but also generally well educated.

I moved here at a time in my life when I was going through great changes. I had moved out of my own apartment, where I’d lived for nine years and in which I not only invested finances, but also hopes and dreams and ideas and feelings and a great part of my heart. “The bed I’m going to get pregnant into” was left behind along with painted radiator masks, chairs and so on. I have to admit I went through a gradual process of letting go that started long before I actually left the place. I cried for every object. I admit. I cried for the wooden floor in the living room as if it were a dear old friend I was leaving.

But when I left, there were no more tears for objects. I never looked back. Never felt sorry for anything anymore. Cut the cords and moved on. From time to time I would go to the fridge to pick up something I’d left in my other fridge, but that didn’t take long, either, and made me giggle eventually.

Before I found the house in Harmony street I made a list with everything I wanted from the new place I was moving into. This place met every strict requirement. I knew immediately it was going to be my new home and that I was going to love it. And that it would only be temporary. Though my initial ‘plan’ has absolutely nothing to do with what’s happening in my life now, it still prevented me from forming too close attachments to the new place.

Nevertheless, now, that I’m preparing to leave again, I’m trying to enjoy every detail, every second spent here, every walk to work and back home again, every bike ride along these beautiful streets. I’m making mental lists of things that will remind me of this place: how happy I was here, how free, so much travelling I’ve done, the open terrace, the run down attic, the cracks in the walls, the dancing during earthquakes, the trembling floor when the washing machine is on, the comfortable bed, the decorations, the marble steps, the sound of the wind blowing last autumn, the piles of virgin snow covering the tiny front yard one winter morning as I struggled to pushed the door open to go to work, the crazy guy downstairs paying me a surprise visit around lunchtime on a Sunday, the parties, the skype conversations, the nighttime jogging last summer and poetry while jogging, hooker spotting and so many other big and small details that will keep this place and this period in my heart for a long while.

I am moving on now. It’s a leap of faith, just like every important move in life. No guarantees. There were no guarantees when I moved here, either. And yet I felt that the happiest period in my life so far was starting. I was right. Sometimes I feel confident, other times I am so afraid. I keep telling myself it’s an adventure. It will take me somewhere. I don’t know where yet. But I know I’m not stuck, I am moving. This time last year I was looking forward to my second trip to Istanbul and talking to my Syrian boyfriend every night on Skype. Now it’s like I have died in the meantime and was born into a new life already. I still have some memories from the previous one, but it’s a totally different story now. I have no regrets. I have moved past the threshold. More about my new life as it unfolds.